October 01, 2006
What makes rowing popular with elite athletes and CrossFitters is exactly what many in the general fitness population dislike about it: your weaknesses cannot be hidden on the rowing machine. It is a human polygraph of physical and mental performance. Stroke for stroke, you are provided with feedback that both reveals any weak spots and very visibly demonstrates the relationship between performance and proper technique. If you want faster times, better scores, and superior performance, work to improve your rowing technique so you can harness your full potential.
Rowing engages all the major muscles of the body and works multiple joints through a large range of motion in a natural, powerful sequence in a no-impact manner. However, proper rowing technique is not an innate skill; mastering it requires instruction. The rowing stroke is very similar to a deadlift. In the drive (work) phase, the legs initiate the power, and arms remain straight. Then the hip flexors and torso muscles maintain the power through the leg and hip drive. Finally, the arms finish the stroke with an accelerating pull toward the torso that completes the smooth handoff of power from lower body to torso to upper body.